As the 40th edition of the Dakar Rally began with two days of stages in Pisco, the RC finalists gathered for the long-awaited global final of the Red Bull Desert Wings University Challenge. The students, each one the winner of a local competition at their university, were: Marcos (Argentina), Carlos (Chile), Filip (Croatia), Yoan (France), Marcel (Germany), Rohith (India), Zak (Peru), Aleksander (Russia), Jure (Slovenia), Robin (South Africa), Javier (Spain) and Andrew (United Kingdom)
The students’ journey started in Lima, where they visited the Red Bull Energy Station in the Dakar Village and met official drivers of the Kamaz team, the Red Bull KTM Factory Team and the Peugeot Total Team. Afterward, they enjoyed the opening ceremony from a VIP section just a few meters from the official podium.
Next, the students trekked to the Pisco bivouac, built in the middle of the desert. They camped surrounded by spectacular trucks, motorcycles and cars to enjoy the real "Dakar experience". During their stay, the students could see the vehicles up close and speak with the riders, drivers, mechanics and leaders of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team, Overdrive and Team Peugeot Total. Many of the engineering students in the group did not waste the opportunity to ask about the engines, aerodynamics, mechanics and design of the cars. Everyone found it to be an enriching experience.
In the middle of the RC car semi-finalist heats, the students were surprised with three unexpected visitors: Carlos Sainz, Sébastien Loeb and Stéphane Peterhansel. The Dakar heroes approached not only to see them compete, but were also encouraged to take a turn driving the small RC cars. This very fun moment brought the attention of the international press as the best professional riders in the world could not properly drive the small toy cars. The students were happy to offer advice to the pros.
Finally, after eight elimination rounds, the semifinals were established: Jure (Slovenia) vs Robin (South Africa) and Rohith (India) vs Andrew (United Kingdom). The winners of the duels and finalists were Jure (20 years old) and Rohith (18), the youngest of the group.
As the final race began, attention turned to the dramatic arrival of the Peugeot 3008 DKR Maxi driven by the French Cyril Despres. Jure Mastnak from far Maribor in Slovenia, arrived first to the checkered flag. The podium celebration closed with Jure raising the Red Bull Desert Wings University Challenge Champion trophy and being sprinkled in champagne by Cyril Despres himself, five times winner of the Dakar in the motorcycle category, and a specialist in celebrations. To witness the action clip of Global Finals: https://www.redbullcontentpool.com/international/AP-1UD3CFMF12111
Taking place for the first time ever in India, Red Bull Desert Wings University Challenge had five qualifiers in Patiala, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bangalore and Mumbai. Winners from each qualifier competed in the finals at Narsee Monjee College, Mumbai on 30th November 2017. The winner Rohit Mahalikudi earned an all-expenses paid trip to Peru to compete in the World Finals at the University of Le Havre on 7th January 2018. Any university student above 18 years of age and holding a valid passport is eligible to participate.
After finishing 2nd at the Red Bull Desert Wings Global Finals, Rohit Mahalikudi from Bengaluru said, “I never expected such a big opportunity to come my way. I did not imagine I would be taking part in such an event. Red Bull changed all of that, they came to my college and I took part. I was surprised and pleasantly shocked that I was going to Peru. Red Bull Desert Wings University Challenge Global finals was a great competitive experience and so elated to be the runner up of this Global competition. Felt so lucky to meet and interact with Peugeot 3008 DKR Maxi French driver Cyril Despres.”
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